Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Unlike Jon Favreau’s insipid 2016 live-action retread of the 1967 animated The Jungle Book—both casebook examples of how Disney can sanitize original source material, stripping it of vigor and meaning—this live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic about a feral Indian boy reared by wolves teems with flesh, blood, and mud, conveying a true sense of danger and adventure. Rohan Chand projects ferocity, vulnerability, and ingenuity in the title role, a “man cub” foundling torn between loyalty to his lupine pack and curiosity about his fellow humans. Director Andy Serkis, arguably the movie industry’s top motion-capture performer, makes his anthropomorphic CGI villains darkly menacing, aided by vocal actors Benedict Cumberbatch, snapping and snarling as Mowgli’s nemesis, the tiger Shere Khan, and Cate Blanchett, by turns languorous and petulant as Kaa, the goddess-like python. Reflecting the long-running controversy over Kipling’s perceived endorsement of paternalism and colonial imperialism, Matthews Rhys has a fine turn as the British trophy hunter whose casual arrogance leads to the movie’s violent conclusion. With Freida Pinto and the voices of Serkis, Christian Bale, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, and Peter Mullan.